Phil Schwenk: Teaching Virtue to Children Gives Them Purpose, Lessens Depression and Anxiety

Phil Schwenk: Teaching Virtue to Children Gives Them Purpose, Lessens Depression and Anxiety

Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed American Classical Education Principal Philip Schwenk in studio to discuss how a classical education will help children develop the important sense of purpose through virtue.

Leahy: There’s a topic Phil that you talk about all the time, and the more you talk about it, the more I think it’s critically important. This is not a topic that usually is heard on morning radio talk shows, but I wanna talk about it right now. Virtue. You talk about that all the time…

Schwenk: Absolutely.

Leahy: As one of the purposes of schools. Why do you focus on virtue?

Schwenk: That’s why we call ourselves classical schools, it’s always been central to education, period. If you go back thousands of years, there’s always been a discussion around not just being learned for the sake of being able to read or write or to speak, but you’re seeking what is true and what is good.

And that happiness is at that cross-section of goodness, truth, and beauty. In order to be part of what we call the great conversation you need to be able to talk about virtues, so kids need to be part of a conversation where they’re discussing what it means to be prudent or moderate or courageous or wise. And it’s not a new conversation. We’ve been talking about this for thousands of years.

Carmichael: Do you think in the absence of being taught, the importance of being virtuous, do you think in the absence of that people grow up to be not virtuous?

Schwenk: Oh, absolutely. And I think that most people historically would agree with that, and it’s inconsistent with what we value as a country. If you actually read a lot of the documents of the original Founding Fathers to have a truly democratic republic, it should be run by good people. And if you’re not teaching people how to be good and virtuous, you’re gonna struggle with the entire balance of all those things.

Carmichael: If you’re not teaching someone the importance of being virtuous, then as voters, it’d be very hard for them to identify and vote for the person who’s virtuous because it’s a lot easier to vote for the person who says, vote for me and I’ll give you something.

Schwenk: Oh, sure. And even beyond the person, just the idea that there is something in good or true to orient towards. If you don’t have anything to orient towards, it doesn’t orient your voting or how you’re gonna make choices. And the advantage we have in classical schools is this isn’t something that we’re deciding right now as a thing. We can give them thousands of documents of writers and thinkers over the years.

Leahy: You go back to Socrates and Plato—even Thales before that.

Schwenk: Absolutely. And most modern Americans have no idea what you were just talking about. And so the discussion is something that when you get kids to talk about that starting early, the idea of virtue is you start in kindergarten. It’s not that you don’t just talk to a, 15-year-old about virtue. You can start teaching children about what it means to be courageous or friendly or moderate.

Leahy: I guess this would be politically incorrect because you wanna talk about virtue and not gender fluidity. (Laughter) I kid.

Schwenk: Socrates wasn’t talking about that. I think most of us, even if we’re not taught about it, have an idea that there is something good. But I think we’ve lost sight of that. Good is something that’s been around for thousands of years. It’s not just, I get to define what is good, and I think one of the areas that classical schools talk about is really the evidence of thousands of years of some of the big questions that human beings still have.

But we’re not necessarily trying to understand what the answers to those questions are. Human beings always want to know about purpose. Why am I here? Why does that exist or what does it mean to love or to be courageous? In our day today, I think it’s very difficult to be courageous and I think most people don’t even really understand what courage is because we’re not talking about it in our schools.

Carmichael: Do you think somebody who is asking the question, why am I here believes in God?

Schwenk: I think obviously the original intention of that discussion that came to conclusions that obviously there was a, you had to talk about God, I think most Americans struggle with that now cause we’re not supposed to be talking about things like that. I think most people lead to, there must be something bigger, that orients how we do things. And that’s always been part of, it’s not a new discussion again.

Leahy: There have been an awful lot of reports that young children and teenagers struggle with depression, and anxiety. And it’s been heightened by social media, but it’s also been heightened in my view by the lack of purpose in the lives of many children and many teenagers. Do you see that the discussion and teaching of virtue will improve that situation?

Schwenk: 100 percent. It’s a population I’ve been around for, going on 30 years. I watched teenagers most of my life, and one of the growing issues that I see with teenagers that I think is linked to the anxiety and depression you are talking about. They don’t know what their purpose is. They don’t even know why they’re here. And nobody’s talking about the orientation towards something good. They’re floating lost, and it’s hard to watch.

When you start getting them into a discussion about these questions that have been going on, and they can read literature and histories on these things, they can start putting themselves in those spaces and connecting to a character, a historical issue, and start recognizing purpose in those things. But yes, I think we have a whole generation of kids that basically feel purposeless and they’re aimless.

Leahy: I see that all the time. And when they’re purposeless and aimless, they watch cat videos on TikTok, for instance.

Schwenk: Hour upon hour, upon hour. Yes.

Leahy: Personally, I’d like to have a big overarching goal.

Carmichael: By the way, you described it is that somebody who is purposeless by definition has no goals. And if you don’t have any goals and you get up in the morning, you start the day. What’s the point? And that’s not a good place. That’s not a good way to start the day.

Leahy: What’s the point of this day? Let me just go back to bed.

Carmichael: That’s not good. I like the way you express that because teaching purpose and teaching virtue is absolutely central to helping people grow up to become fulfilled and happy.

Schwenk: I agree.

Leahy: So how do you teach that to kids in today’s culture? Let’s say you’ve got you we’ve got a K 5 American Classical Education school using that classical model and part of the charter school initiative operating next fall. How do you teach virtue in your curriculum?

Schwenk: I think there are some basics there. One, you have to define terms and then you have to model it. So much of my work as an administrator is making sure that you put adults in front of students that can model these behaviors or they’re doing their best to model these behaviors.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.

















Congressman David Kustoff Talks Washington D.C., Nancy Pelosi’s Power and Republicans Taking Back the House

Congressman David Kustoff Talks Washington D.C., Nancy Pelosi’s Power and Republicans Taking Back the House


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Congressman (R) David Kustoff to the newsmakers line to weigh in on Nancy Pelosi’s iron grip on Washington D.C., HR1 legislation, and a path forward for Republicans.

Leahy: Tennessee, joined on our newspaper line by Congressman David Kustoff, a Republican who represents the Eighth Congressional District in Tennessee, which stretches all the way from a little bit West of Nashville, all the way down to Shelby County, the Memphis area. Welcome, Congressman Kustoff.

Kustoff: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Leahy: How are you holding up in the crazy land of out-of-control Nancy Pelosi?

Kustoff: Well, I think you really summed up pretty well. Pelosi has made Washington help to create this toxic atmosphere. And you look at the priorities that she said, starting with the election bill, that you’ve been talking about, that federalize elections across the nation and it’s really scary. The power that the federal government is trying to implement on state and local governments all over and it emanates from Pelosi, the progressives, and the left side.

When you look at what she’s trying to do with elections, we’ve talked a lot and we’ve heard a lot about what’s going on in Georgia. It may not matter. If Pelosi’s election bill, which the bill number of anybody is following it is HR1, which means in her world, this is the most important bill that Congress is going to consider over these two years, it’s a complete domination of the election process by federal officials.

Leahy: In my view, it’s also unconstitutional. I like the name that I think speak former Speaker Newt Gingrich came up with for it. The Corrupt Politicians Act. Tell us about some of these.

Kustoff: (Chuckles) Well, that’s a good lead-in because it’s very broad. It’s very comprehensive. I think Speaker Gingrich is exactly right because I look at Tennessee in my area of Tennessee and I think that that we handle elections and we administer elections very fairly. People have plenty of opportunities to vote that one time. They’ve got several weeks of early voting. Extended hours. We make it pretty easy.

One thing that we require, which I think is exactly right, is voter identification. Just like when I go to the airport to fly to Washington every week, I’m showing the TSA official my driver’s license to show that I am who I am. Nothing unreasonable about it. Pelosi’s election bill gets rid of that voter ID requirement. And so it doesn’t matter what Tennessee’s law is as it relates to voter ID or any other state, it would be nullified.

It mandates the mail-in ballots. It mandates the drop boxes. But going back to your question with Speaker Gingrich, and this is incredible. I want people to really try to wrap their arms around this because it’s hard. It would create this bill, a six to one federal political donation match for all donations under $200. So picture this.

If Joe Smith gives Bernie Sanders a $200 donation, the federal government is going to chip in $1,200 to the Bernie Sanders reelection campaign. Now, that really makes no sense. And by the way, that would be funded with a tax increase. So you can see it’s a complete domination of elections by federal authorities. And it injects corruption into the process just as Speaker Gingrich says.

Leahy: Well, next time you’re meeting with Speaker Pelosi, I’m sure she regularly schedules meetings with the Republican members of the House. Not.  But I have a message for her from Tennessee, direct from Tennessee. If the Senate passes the Corrupt Politicians Act and if the House then approves a conference committee, whatever it is, if it’s signed into law, she can take that law, and we’re not going to comply with it here in Tennessee. The state of Tennessee is going to push back. That I can guarantee you.

Kustoff: Well, I think that to your point a little bit earlier, I think that there are a lot of state attorney generals around the nation, the would challenge the authority and the constitutionality of this law to overstep and override their own state laws. And that would be appropriate. It’s a complete overreach. You just talked jokingly about sitting down with Pelosi. Here’s the stage right now.

The majority in the House of Representatives, there are 435 Congressmen and women, the magic number is 218. Now you’ve got some vacancies. You’ve got a Democratic congressman who passed away the other day. Right now, the count in the House is 218 Democrat Congressmen. And as of next week, there’ll be 212 Republican Congressman. And there are a few vacancies. So my point is that it is very very tight. It can’t be any tighter in the Senate.

50 Republicans, 50 Democrats. You would think at this point in time that Pelosi would reach out to Republicans and say, look, we don’t have the numbers to try to cram stuff down your throat and down the American people’s throat. Let’s see where we can find some common ground. Let’s get some stuff done for the American people and let’s get things going. But that’s not her strategy. That’s not her tactics. That’s not who she is. And that’s why until November of 2022, we’re going to have to fight like heck for our country.

Leahy: Now, let me ask you this question. Those 218 Democratic members of the House of Representatives, is there any single one of them that you’ve met who has the courage and convictions to stand against the lies of Nancy Pelosi? I mean, really. And when it comes down to it, will anyone stand for America on the Democratic side, or are they all in fear of Nancy Pelosi’s wrath and just going in lockstep with this attempt to destroy our constitutional Republic?

Kustoff: Well, believe it or not, the answer is both. There are some Democrat congressman who want to do the right thing and who think that she overreaches and think that the Democratic Party is moving and has moved too far to the left. But at the same time, they know her power and they know what she can do to them.

And seen some moderates get totally wiped out and get primaried by people to their left and to their progressive side because they don’t cow-tow to where the Democratic Party is today. You’ve seen them wiped off the board the last two and four years, and that’s really too bad. So there are a number of them who get it. But at the same time, she wields a lot of power.

And to her credit, she’s a terrific vote counter. And so she’s not going to put a bill on the floor of the House of Representatives unless she’s absolutely sure that she’s got the votes to pass it. And so that’s the real rub. To me, we talked about this election bill that Pelosi named HR1. You didn’t see Democrats fighting against it, arguing against it, or voting against it. And that’s because of the tremendous control that she has.

Leahy: They are afraid of her.

Kustoff: I really do think a number of them are. And believe it or not, they may be as scared of somebody like an AOC as they are Pelosi.

Leahy: Jim Cooper here is about to be challenged by Nashville’s version of AOC, Odessa Kelly, who if elected, would be the first Black lesbian member of Congress from Tennessee. And she’s all-in in terms of the left-wing agenda of AOC. That is I guess is one thing that they may be concerned about. Final thoughts from Congressman David Kustoff.

Kustoff: Yeah, well, it’s a tough time in our nation’s history. We’ll get past it. I really feel very good that we’re going to get the House back in Republican hands in November of 2022. But it is going to be a real fight, and I’m going to continue to make that fight.

Leahy: From your lips to God’s ear.

Listen to the full second hour:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio